July 12: The Rangers have made it official, signing Hajek to a one-year contract.
July 11: The New York Rangers will bring back a familiar face to add to their depth in that of Libor Hajek. Per CapFriendly, the Rangers have re-signed Hajek, a pending RFA, to a one-year, one-way deal worth $800K (link). The contract will buy out a year of arbitration eligibility for Hajek and will leave him still an RFA after the upcoming season. Originally a second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016, Hajek came to the Rangers in the blockbuster that sent Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller down to Tampa.
With the development of several quality blueline prospects in the Rangers organization, Hajek found himself without much playing time this season, getting into just five AHL games and 17 NHL games in 2021-22. When the defenseman did play in the NHL, things didn’t go so well either, producing just one assist and registering a minus-10 rating, the worst of his career, despite playing in as many as 44 games in previous seasons.
In reality, the defenseman has not been a bad player for the Rangers, but has fallen victim to the team’s development of defensemen like K’Andre Miller, Braden Schneider, and Zachary Jones and acquisitions of Justin Braun and Patrik Nemeth. On a one-way contract with the Rangers, who figure to be hard-pressed against the NHL salary cap, making it difficult to retain Braun and perhaps necessitating a trade of Nemeth, Hajek could figure to see more time in the lineup, representing an affordable piece that has proven he is able to play minutes at the next level.